Friday, September 30, 2011

A New Name

One of our texts this morning was Revelation 2:17 which says, He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

Now we have the part of the letter where Jesus promises salvation to the over comer.  And not only that, but He will give them some of the hidden manna to eat. What is manna?  In Exodus 16, the people of Israel were in their wilderness wandering, and complained that there was no food.  Exodus 16:4 tells us, Then the LORD said to Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you...  So, they awoke to the next morning and it was all over the place.  Exodus 16:14-15 says, When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, What is it? For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, "It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat."  In other words, God will be that "hidden manna" for us.  This speaks of eternal life!  Just as it sustained the children of Israel in the desert and gave them life, so too, we have life in Christ.  Jesus said in John 6:48-51 "I am that bread of life.  Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."  So, He Himself is the hidden manna and eating of Him means life eternal.  Jesus referred to this also in John 6:54-56 when He said, "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him."  Of course, he was speaking spiritually, not physically.

Notice in this verse that it says that those who overcome will also receive a "white stone" with a "new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."  Without going into much detail; in the Old Testament when there was a decision of innocence or guilt, two stones would be placed in a bag: one white and the other black.  The white was an indication of innocence and the black, an indication of guilt.  There are many that feel these stones were the Urim and the Thummim.  We see them referred to in Numbers 27:21 where it says, "And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation."  They are also referred to in Deuteronomy 33:8, Ezra 2:63, Nehemiah 7:65, Exodus 28:30 and Leviticus 8:8.  Do your own study.  So in giving you a white stone, Jesus could be saying, "you're innocent, I have made you not guilty."

There is also another historical white stone.  It was a piece of pure white marble that was given to the winners of the first Olympics as a trophy.  One day Jesus will also declare us to be winners.  But what about this new name carved on it?  One day Jesus will give me a name that only he and I know.  This new name is also referred to in Revelation 3:12 where it says, "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name."

Can you imagine getting a name that only you and God knows?  How many Dwayne's are there in this world?  I'm sure that there are literally thousands.  However, this promise says that one day when we get to Heaven, God is going to give those of us who have accepted His Son, a new name that only He and the person He gives it to knows.  I remember when I was just boy out in the neighborhood playing with my friends and my Grandmother would yell out, "Herbert Dwayne Spearman!"  You probably have memories like that too.  She did that to distinguish me from all others.  So too, our Heavenly Father is going to give us a name to distinguish us from all others!

Threefold Remedy

Our text this morning came from Revelation 2:4-5 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. (5)  Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. Unfortunately, we all tend to stray away from the things of God for one reason or another from time to time. However, it's never too late to come back and the remedy is threefold. First, you must remember from where you have fallen. You need to remember what you were doing when you knew for sure that you were in the perfect will of God. Second you must repent. Tell God you're sorry and turn away from your sin. Remember, it's always our sin that causes us to forsake our first love. Third, we need to go back and do the things that we were doing before we forsook our first love.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Modern Youth Ministry

I've been saying this for years, but no one wants to hear it. Modern youth ministry is going the wrong way. Not sure about everything these guys are saying because I haven't seen the movie yet though.
 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

As the Deer

In the devotion this morning, we looked at Psalm 42:1-2 which says, As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? The word used for pants in this verse is the word "bray" which means "to cry". We see it similarly used in Joel 1:20 when it says, Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the open pastures.

The word properly means "to rise; to ascend; and then, to look up toward anything; to long for." It implies that the animals of the field cry out to God in a time of drought and need. The Psalmist said in Psalm 104:21 The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The question for us today is, "If even the animals know to look to God during their time of need; shouldn't we also?"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Junk Food

Our devotion this morning came from 1 Peter 2. Here are a few things that was shared. Verse 1 says, Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. When we see "therefore", we must ask, "What's it there for?"In other words, in lieu of all that I have said in chapter one, we need to do these things.

Verse 2 says, Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. This verse is contingent upon the first verse. If we don't lay aside the things in v.1, then we will not be able to enjoy the Word here in v.2. However, if we don't enjoy the Word, we will not have the strength to lay aside the things in v.1. Remember we talked about how that sitting under the teaching of the Word of God is like sitting under a shower?
 
One pastor compares the things in v.1 to junk food. No matter how good the home cooked meal is that is waiting for us at home; if we eat junk food on the way, we will not be interested. The same is true of us and the Word of God. When we stop studying the Word (the home-cooked meal), it's because we're eating the junk food (the things the world has to offer).

Funny Story: A candidate for church membership was asked, "What part of the Bible do you like best?"  He said: "I like the New Testament best.  Then he was asked, "What Book in the New Testament is your favorite?"  He answered, the Book of the Parables, Sir."  They then asked him to relate one of the parables to the membership committee.  And a bit uncertain, he began... "Once upon a time a man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves; and the thorns grew up and choked the man. And he went on and met the Queen of Sheba, and she gave that man, Sir, a thousand talents of silver, and a hundred changes of raiment. And he got in his chariot and drove furiously, and as he was driving along under a big tree, his hair got caught in a limb and left him hanging here! And he hung there many days and many nights. The ravens brought him food to eat and water to drink. And one night while he was hanging there asleep, his wife Delilah came along and cut off his hair, and he fell on stoney ground. And it begin to rain, and rained forty days and forty nights. And he hid himself in a cave. Later he went on and met a man who said, "Come in and take supper with me." But he said, "I can't come in, for I have married a wife." And the man went out into the highways and hedges and compelled him to come in! He then came to Jerusalem, and saw Queen Jezebel sitting high and lifted up in a window of the wall. When she saw him she laughed, and he said, "Throw her down out of there," and they threw her down. And he said "Throw her down again," and they threw her down seventy-times-seven. And the fragments which they picked up filled twelve baskets full! NOW, whose wife will she be in the day of the Judgment?" The membership committee agreed that this was indeed a knowledgeable candidate!

The bottom line is that we need to study the Word of God. It is the real deal. It is the home cooked meal. Everything else is simply junk food!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Matthew Introduction

Here are some facts about the Gospels that I shared last night in my Matthew class.

The Gospels open with an announcement in the Temple of God (Lk. 1:11-20) and close with the ascension of the Son of God (Lk. 24:50-51).

As the Old Testament began with man made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), the Gospels open up with God made in the image of man (Jn. 1:14).

The man made in the image of God was defeated by Satan in a garden when defied God's will (Gen. 2:8; 3:1-7), but the God made in the image of man defeated Satan in a garden when He submitted to His Father's will (Lk. 22:39-42).

Prior to the Gospels, sheep died for shepherds (Ex. 12:1-13), but now the Shepherd was going to die for the sheep (Jn. 10:11).

At his birth he was offered gold, frankincense, and myrrh by wise men who worshipped him (Mt. 2:11), while at his death he was offered thorns, vinegar, and spittle by wicked men who ridiculed him (Mt. 27:29, 34, 26:67).

The Gospels describe Jesus saving sinners under a tree (Jn. 1:48), up a tree (Lk. 19:4-5), and on a tree (Lk. 23:43).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Tree of Life

This morning we looked at Revelation 2:7 which says, He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. I remember when I was in Bible College, I had a teacher who used to tell us that the reason God gave us one mouth and two ears was so that we would listen twice as much as we talk.  That is very true.  What the Lord is saying is that we would all be wise to listen to both the compliments paid and the warnings given to this first church of Ephesus. They were complimented for their great work, love, labor, patience, and because they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans. However, they were warned because they had left their first love. We would all be wise to take those compliments and warnings to heart.

If we do listen, we are told that God will give us the opportunity to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God.  The first place the tree of life is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 2:9 where it says, And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam was later told by God that he could eat of everything in the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17).  The implication is that he could have chosen to eat of the tree of life, but when given the option, choose not to do so.
 
Instead he chose to eat of the one tree God told him not to. Isn't that just like us? You tell a child to do a hundred things but one, he will chose the one. It's his rebellious nature that he inherited from you. You received it from your parents and they received it from theirs. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

What if Adam had chosen the tree of life first? He would have lived forever! But no, he chose to rebel and do exactly what God told him not to and ate of the tree of knowledge. It cost him paradise and his life. He and Eve were expelled from the garden because God did not want to allow them to turn and then take of the tree of life and live forever in their fallen sinful state. That's the first time we see the tree of life in the Bible, but not the last.

Where is the tree of life now?  We were just told in Revelation 2:7 that it is no longer in the Garden of Eden but in the paradise of God.  That's not the Garden of Eden, but Heaven.  We are told this again in Revelation 22:1-2 where it says, Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  2  down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. And then again in Revelation 22:14 it says, Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.

Today, we have the same choice set before us: death or life.  Unfortunately, Adam's rebellion has already infected us all for it was passed down to us. However, there is a way of escape. We can still take of the tree of life through Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 11:25-26, Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26  and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" If you do, you'll live forever!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Excuses, Excuses

I used to sing this song by the Kingsmen Quarter as a child.

In summertime it is too hot, in winter it's too cold; In Spring and Fall when the weather's nice there's some place else to go -- Either to the mountains or to the beach, or visit some old friend; Or stay at home and hope that some of the relatives will drop in. A headache every Sunday morn, and a backache Sunday night; But by the time on Monday you're feeling quite all right. But maybe some of the children had a cold -- Pneumonia, you suppose -- So all the family had to stay at home -- and blow the poor child's nose!

Excuses, excuses; you'll hear them every day the devil will supply you, if from Church you'll stay away. When people come to know the Lord, the devil always loses, And so to keep them from the Church he offers them EXCUSES!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Effect of Legalism

In contrast to the two commands of Christ, (love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself), the Pharisees had developed a system of 613 laws, 365 negative commands and 248 positive laws...By the time Christ came it had produced a heartless, cold, and arrogant brand of righteousness. As such, it contained at least ten tragic flaws. (1) New laws continually need to be invented for new situations. (2) Accountability to God is replaced by accountability to men. (3) It reduces a person's ability to personally discern. (4) It creates a judgmental spirit. (5) The Pharisees confused personal preferences with divine law. (6) It produces inconsistencies. (7) It created a false standard of righteousness. (8) It became a burden to the Jews. (9) It was strictly external. (10) It was rejected by Christ.

Serving God in Truth

Francois Fenelon was the court preacher for King Louis XIV of France in the 17th century. One Sunday when the king and his attendants arrived at the chapel for the regular service, no one else was there but the preacher. King Louis demanded, "What does this mean?" Fenelon replied, "I had published that you would not come to church today, in order that your Majesty might see who serves God in truth and who flatters the king."

Sincere Love

We covered 1 Peter 1:22 which says, Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 

"Now that you have purified yourselves": No one is made pure without personal intention or effort. Just as no one can be become an accomplished or learned musician, so too, no one can become purified without some personal effort. As a matter of fact, the amount of effort which we make in purifying our souls is usually the measure of our closeness to the Lord. 

"By obeying the truth": Notice that the purifying process only takes place as a result of obedience. There is no purification without obedience.

"Through the Spirit": Unfortunately, the NIV does not put the next phrase after "by obeying the truth" which is "through the Spirit". 

It is only by the power of the Spirit that we can obey the truth and thus be purified.

Zec 4:6 "…Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts."

"So that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.": The effect of purifying our souls by obedience to the truth through the power of the Holy Spirit is that we will have a sincere love for the brethren! You show me someone who is having a hard time loving his brother or sister and I'll show you someone who has not purified themselves by obedience to the truth through the power of the Holy Spirit!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What's Wrong With Church?

This is an article written by Paul Baloche, a respected worship leader, that truly speaks to what I've believed for years.  The "modern" church is simply missing it.

"What's wrong with the church? What's wrong with modern worship? What is it that would help most twentysomethings connect with God, and how would music fit in and encourage that connection?" Over the past year I have made a point of interviewing lots of twentysomethings and asking them for honest feedback regarding all things worship. I have been surprised and challenged by their responses. Following is a fictional yet common synopsis of their accounts.

Picture if you will...you walk into the Friday night college group of a prominent church. In the foyer you see about hundred college-aged students mingling about getting coffee, munching on day-old pastries, and talking. Music blares form the speakers throughout the hall and sanctuary causing everyone to shout out their hellos. These kids have the perfect haircuts, the most put-together outfits, and an air about them that says, "You couldn't possible be as good-looking as me, even if you tried." Intimidating to say the least, this group looks more like they're dressing up for a night on the town rather than coming together to worship God.

After a few songs punctuated by well-timed lights and a moody atmosphere, smoke billowing down the aisles and a virtual mosh pit in the front, the pastor walks on stage and addresses the crowd. "If it's your first time, we welcome you here. The way we see worship, if you can scream your guts out at a football game or dance around at a concert, you can do it here for God." And on he goes with anecdotes, with a spiritual bent, that have everyone snickering and cheering for various pop culture icons.

Individual expression in worship is wonderful. If these people want to raise their hands for God, dance and jump around, that's all fine. But maybe we are taking something special out of this connection with God by mimicking other areas of entertainment. Have we come together to be entertained, to take part in some godly rock show? Often times this is what it feels like. The worship band seems more in focus than God. After seeing the staff at some of those places, I begin to understand partially why everyone in the congregation looks like celebrities. They're all young, dressing even younger and acting like they're the best thing since carbonated beverages. Those who who can call the staff friends are automatically a notch cooler than the rest. Where is the focus here? Where is God here?

This type of service might please some, but I've talked with many who are less than satisfied. Rather than feeling accepted into this crowd, newcomers feel intimidated and separate. Skillful musicians and singers do the worship, but the performance and light show can be distracting. Though they are greeted at the door, it's easy to feel like the person in front of you is just playing a part, obviously not that interested in you as a person because as soon as you start to respond, they're on to the next person. What is lacking here? What makes this atmosphere so easy to play along with, but so lacking in meaning?

I've found that this generation is not looking for another show, another competition, or another place to feel inadequate. They seek authenticity. They seek people who are genuine through and through. Worship is supposed to be the heart's cry to its maker. The leaders in worship should be focused on a genuine expression of the heart, not simply a performance.

What this comes down to is a pursuit of truth. Twentysomethings don't long for a sugarcoated version of the Bible, faith and church doctrine. They seek an in-depth exploration of what it means to be Christian – Bible studies and sermons focusing on why Christians believe what they believe, not because tradition says so, but because of what Scripture claims.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Debt We Could Not Pay

Our Devotion comes out of 1 Peter 1:18 which says, But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. Again, we see the precious blood of the Lamb by which we were redeemed.

This is an argument for holy living in light of all that God has done for us.
The word, redeemed means to be ransomed.  Today that word means very little to us because slavery is, for the most part, outlawed. However, in Peter's day, slavery was an everyday thing. It is estimated that the population of Rome consisted of about sixty million slaves.

There were only two ways in which a slave could buy his freedom. A person could either save the money and purchase his own freedom or someone could do it for him. Certainly the event of redemption meant a lot more then than it does now.

Moses continually reminded the Children of Israel that they were once slaves. He said in
Deut. 5:15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

Paul also reminded us in Titus in Titus 3:3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.


Like the slaves of Rome, we were unable to redeem ourselves, so Christ did it for us!
In response, we owe him everything.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

Preparing for His Coming

Our text this morning was 1 Peter 1:13-17 which says, Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  (14)  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  (15)  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  (16)  for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (17) Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.

In preparing for this glorious salvation that will come to every believer, Peter exhorts us to do six things.

First, prepare your minds for action

I'm sorry, but that does not sound as good as "gird up the loins of our minds."

Willmington says, "This girding calls to mind a patriarch of the Old Testament who wore a long flowing robe.  Around that robe he had a big belt called a girdle.  When the time came that he had to move swiftly, he pulled it up and lapped it over the belt.  He girded up his loins and was ready for action."

Second, be self-controlled.

To be self-controlled means to be "calm; not under the influence of passion."

Third, set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.

In other words, keep your eyes on Jesus no matter how it looks around you.

Fourth, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.
(v.14).

In other words, we believers who are looking for salvation, we are to be governed by a different rule because the old rules that we lived by then, not longer apply to us.

Fifth, be holy in all you do (16) for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy. (vv.15-16).

This meaning is simple: since God is holy, and we profess to be His followers, we should be holy as well.

Sixth, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear (v.17).

Peter is also saying that we are to not lose sight of the fact that we are only going to be here for a short while.

We are pilgrims who are merely passing through (1:1; 2:11)

The Judgment Seat
Finally, notice in these verses that Peter reminds us that one day there will be a judgment when he says, Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially.

The judgment that Peter speaks of here is the Judgment Seat of Christ.

It is at this judgment that we will all give an account of how we passed our time here in this life.

Wiersbe points out that the Greek word for "judge" in this verse means "to judge in order to find something good."

In other words, in that day, God will be looking for our motives so that He may glorify Himself in our lives and ministries.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to be an Overcomer

1 John 5:1-5 says that Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.  (2)  This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.  (3)  This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,  (4)  for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  (5)  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

These verses tell us that there are two ways that we and others can know that we are truly children of God.  First, we will obey the commandments that God has given to us in His Word.  Jesus reminded us in John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

Secondly, we will love one another.  He also said in 1 John 4:11-12 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  (12)  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

However, I also see something else in these verses.  It says that only those who do these things (obey His commandments and love one another) have the ability to overcome the world.